Last week, a paper by Alan Cann, Neil Saunders and I, was published on our work using FriendFeed with first year undergraduates on a compulsory IT and numeracy skills course. The paper examines the networks that grew up amongst the students and how they communicated with each other and with the staff involved. One of the overriding lessons I took from this project was that (some) undergraduate students need mentoring in online spaces. They need to have good practice modelled for them and they need to be supported and encouraged to start to create a positive digital footprint with a professional identity. They knew how to be social online, they were not always sure about how to be professional online. It was important for the staff involved to be there from the start, active in other social networks, resident in the space and work on giving positive support to students.
I would hope that I can transfer these principles to work with school children in a more controlled and limited way. One idea I have is to Edmodo (or another type of closed environment) to model good practice and scaffold tasks for children to complete in a social media setting we can perhaps have some thoughtful discussions about what is good, safe practice. I know Simon Haughton makes good use of Edmodo, I’d love to hear of other examples.
J. L. Badge, N. F. W. Saunders, A. J. Cann. (2012). `Beyond marks: new tools to visualise student engagement via social networks – Badge – Research in Learning Technology‘.
Evidence shows that engaged students perform better academically than disinterested students. Measurement of engagement with education is difficult and imprecise, especially in large student cohorts. Traditional measurements such as summary statistics derived from assessment are crude secondary measures of engagement at best and do not provide much support for educators to work with students and curate engagement during teaching periods. We have used academic-related student contributions to a public social network as a proxy for engagement. Statistical summaries and novel data visualisation tools provide subtle and powerful insights into online student peer networks. Analysis of data collected shows that network visualisation can be an important curation tool for educators interested in cultivating student engagement.